Medicago Inc. has received a $21 million grant from the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to build a 90,000-square-foot vaccine-production facility in North Carolina.
“This DARPA funding is also perfectly in line with our development plan for both our pandemic and seasonal influenza products as we will now have a U.S. facility ready to participate in the $7 billion pandemic and seasonal influenza markets,” the company said.
“In addition, our U.S. facility will provide us enhanced access to the various grant programs in the U.S.A. and we will be ready to take part in these additional funding opportunities.”
The facility will use a new method for producing vaccines in tobacco plants. The new method produces a vaccine in only one month, in comparison with traditional egg-based production, which takes six months or longer.
“This collaboration further highlights the emergence of plant-based platforms as viable technologies for the production of valuable products like vaccines,” said Doug Dean of tobacco giant Philip Morris International.
The DARPA grant is part of the government’s Accelerated Manufacture of Pharmaceuticals program, which seeks ways to produce high-quality vaccines quickly in order to be able to respond effectively to a sudden pandemic.
“It’s vitally important to our homeland security that we have a robust domestic vaccine supply, and this facility will add to our production capacity helping mitigate future threats,” said Rep. David Price, chair of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.
Although flu shots are widely recommended by governments and medical organizations, their effectiveness remains controversial among some doctors and health advocates.
“Perhaps flu shots do save some lives, but there is little doubt that vitamin D would do a much better job,” writes Marc Sorenson in his book Solar Power For Optimal Health.
“Considering that daily supplementation with 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D can cost as little as $10.00 per year, a tremendous financial burden could be lifted from the health-care system and from the budget of elderly persons!”